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Review: Fluke reinvents handheld network testing

Brian Chee | April 9, 2014
The Fluke Networks LinkSprinter makes on-the-fly network testing quick, easy, and more affordable than ever

Fluke Networks LinkSprinter

The Fluke Networks LinkSprinter represents a huge departure from the company's previous product offerings. Fluke Networks at one time had a near monopoly in the handheld network testing market, only to see its dominance crumble to competition from JDSU. The LinkSprinter represents Fluke's reinvention of its entry-level product. More important, the LinkSprinter reinvents the way IT professionals will view handheld network testing.

The bottom line is that handheld network-testing tools have been too expensive, too slow, and too cumbersome to carry as part of your regular toolkit. All too often it was easier for installers to "rock and roll" their network installations and test only when things didn't work. The test tools cost too much, and the tests took too long -- long enough to really bite into how many network drops you could install in a day.

The industry has been screaming for a handheld network test tool that is fast, self-documenting, and affordable enough for every tech to carry one. The LinkSprinter 100 ($199, wired Ethernet) and LinkSprinter 200 ($299, built-in Wi-Fi) answer the call.

The LinkSprinter is an exploratory attempt at a truly inexpensive network test tool. Just ask any electronics design engineer about handheld platforms, and they'll tell you the biggest cost is that hunk of glass. Fluke Networks has removed that expensive hunk of glass by leveraging the smartphone in our pockets. The LinkSprinter 200 combines a built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi access point with a Web server, allowing any Wi-Fi-enabled, HTML5-savvy browser to serve as the "glass" for the tester. The LinkSprinter 100 also includes the internal Web server, but you'll need to access it through the wired network.

Testing with LinkSprinter
Both LinkSprinters still give you quick and dirty test indicators in the form of tri-state LEDs, but your browser is now the place to get more detailed test information. Below are a few examples of how the LinkSprinter can help with your post-installation checklist.

  • Do I have power over PoE (Power over Ethernet), and if so, how much? Not all PoE is created equally, and cable length, kinks, and poor terminations all have an impact on usable power. Knowing how much power is flowing over PoE translates into knowing whether that access point 30 feet in the air is going to work or not. LED Status: OFF = no PoE (< 20V) RED = high voltage (> 57V) YELLOW = low voltage (< 37V) GREEN = normal voltage
  • Am I negotiating link correctly with my upstream switch? One of the most basic tests, link is different for gigabit versus 100-megabit connectivity. Make sure link is negotiated over all four pairs for gig, but only two pairs for the older 100 meg. LED Status: OFF = auto-off activated after 3-minute timeoutBLINKING_GREEN = waiting for initial link or link lostSOLID_GREEN = linked OK
  • If I'm on a DHCP network, am I getting correctly formed DHCP replies? Can I get DHCP and can I get it at least three times in a row? What you don't want is your test device "hanging onto the old DHCP" address as you move from data jack to data jack. Once you have an HTML5 browser associated with the LinkSprinter 200, you can reconfigure it for a static address. LED Status: RED = DHCP failed after 1-minute timeout, or duplicate IP detected GREEN= DHCP acquired, or static IP with no duplicate address
  • Can I get to my default gateway? If you can't talk reliably to your default gateway, nothing else matters. You ARP to things in the same subnet as you, but it's the gateway that gets you to the outside world. LED status: OFF = connected to cloud for claiming unit (if DHCP and WWW are both green) RED = no ping responses (some gateways have PING disabled) YELLOW = missed one or two pings GREEN = received all three pings
  • Can I get to an Internet resource such as a Web server? This last test is actually two in one. First, can you do a DNS lookup? Second, can you get to a resource using something like a Web browser? This configurable test can be set up for just about any TCP port or as a simple ICMP ping. LED Status: RED = DNS name lookup failed or no ping/port responses YELLOW = missed one or two ping/port responses GREEN = received all three ping/port responses

 

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